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R2AK 2017

June 10, 2017

My R2AK 2017 Experience:

Less than 2 weeks before the start I saw a post on the Maritime Center’s R2AK facebook page saying that Team Sailpro had lost 2 members and was in danger of not being able to do the race and encouraging those who thought they might be able to help out to contact Agi, the team captain (and boat owner).

I sent Agi a message – that I was sure she’d be able to find better crew, that I was 69 and not in the best shape since I’d had a hip replaced in late January, but that if she was interested, I had experience sailing in the southern half of the race area and had been involved in one way or another with the race since the beginning.

Agi responded positively and the Friday before the start I met her and 3 other Americans at the boat, Lung Ta – a Crowther Designed 34-foot trimaran, in Port Orchard.  Agi, Lance, his father Rich and I became the new Team Sailpro.  None of us, including Agi, had ever sailed the boat.  We worked to get everything ready.  It was decided that we’d not set up sliding-seat rowing stations, but rather use my 2 9’2″ carbon fiber big-blade sculls as paddles and Agi also bought a couple of stand-up paddle board paddles.  On Tuesday evening Agi, the previous owner and I motored against headwinds to Port Townsend.  On Wednesday Rich and Lance drove up, the outboard was removed, and we managed all the required pre-race activities.  We were up and 4 am and soon paddled out of the harbor, raised sails, and looked for the start.  We didn’t find the line until after the start and had to sail back to be able to cross in the right direction – one of the last to make the start.

In light winds we learned about Lung Ta and moved reasonably well.  By early afternoon, still 10 miles or more from Victoria, we were around the middle of the R2AK Fleet.  Wind came up, and we soon replaced the big #1 Genoa with the number 3 foresail.  When Agi trimmed it in the high winds it blew out of the forestay track.

I had become the foredeck monkey.  We dropped the #3 and I secured it as I had the Genoa.  I went back to the cockpit, then up through the cabin to pull out the storm jib, bring it back through the cabin and forward only to learn that it was not designed to go into the forestay track and had no other means of attachment.  So we were without a functioning foresail.  We were unable to make progress against wind and currents without a foresail and spent the night tacking back and forth across the mouth of Haro Strait in gale force winds gusting 50 knots.  It was the first time I’d been out in those conditions and was quite an adventure.  We were never in danger, and never comfortable.  With a lot of area and not so much weight, Lung Ta bounced around a lot in the rough conditions.  In the wee hours the wind diminished and the current changed.  We arrived in Victoria at 7 am.

There was plenty to do in Victoria, including digging out the #4 foresail which was in good shape, so we had a high-wind sail for the rest of the race.

At the start of the “real” race from Victoria we paddled against some wind (no sails allowed in the harbor area, no motors in R2AK of course).  As we got farther out the breeze increased and we couldn’t make the last 50 yards to the line where sails are allowed.  Finally the harbor patrol told us to go ahead and raise sail and get out of there.  We were last out and could barely see a small boat far ahead that was next to last.

It was fairly slow going most of that day, and we had to paddle hard to reach a small cove to anchor when the tide turned against us at the west end of Stuart Island.  We had fairly good sailing from there on to Campbell River.

At Campbell River the team came apart.  Rich’s wife drove up to get Rich and Lance and brought the outboard which made it feasible for Agi and me to sail Lung Ta back to Port Orchard.

It was quite an experience!

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